JAA moves on runway extension at Craig; The authority revives plans to extend the main runway from 4,000 to 6,000 feet.

The Jacksonville Aviation Authority has resurrected plans to extend the main runway at Craig Municipal Airport. Airport officials have wanted to extend the runway for years, but long have faced opposition from neighboring residents who feared the expansion would bring more air traffic and noise to the area.

JAA intends to apply for a change to the city's comprehensive plan this week to allow a runway extension from 4,000 to 6,000 feet.

Neither the City Council member whose district includes the airport nor the area residents planning advisory committee could be reached for comment Tuesday night.

The authority sent a letter dated Aug. 9 explaining its intent to property owners neighboring the Arlington airport, which is bounded by St. Johns Bluff Road, Atlantic Boulevard, Kernan Boulevard and Monument Road.

"We did not arrive at this decision in haste," the letter said. "In the end, and we speak with a unanimous voice, the overriding concern for the JAA Board has been, and will continue to be, safety first."

Craig airport has two 4,000-foot runways. The authority wants to extend one by 2,000 feet.

"A longer runway is a safer runway," said Michael Stewart, authority spokesman. "It is something that needs to be dealt with. It is a safety issue."

Stewart said the runway extension would not change the type or size of planes that can use the airport, dismissing concerns that Craig would serve larger planes or become a commercial service airport. Public hearings have not been announced. Stewart said it would probably take about four years to collect the various regulatory approvals needed to start construction.

Craig airport helps divert smaller, general air traffic from Jacksonville International Airport. In 2005, Craig reported 162,000 takeoffs and landings, according to the airport's Web site.

alison.trinidad@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4268